A game of cyber security chess has been playing out in the United States between the FBI and Apple Inc. The FBI had the San Bernadino shooter's (Syed Farook) iPhone and asked for Apple's assistance to unlock it so that they could view the contents of the folders inside the phone. Engineers at Apple admitted that software would need to be invented to introduce the 'back door' that the FBI required, and that it would go against their values of privacy that they hold dear for every iPhone/Apple device user. So, they refused to build the software.
A battalion of other tech companies stood behind Apple in the case and tried to veto an oncoming court order that would render any argument against the FBI useless and Apple would be legally liable to unlock the phone.
Eventually, the FBI decided they wouldn't ask Apple for their assistance and would research methods of how to unlock the phone themselves. And it seems they have succeeded. According to the LATimes, the FBI announced, on Monday, that they had successfully unlocked the shooter's phone without Apple's help.
Now, Apple is concerned about the possible vulnerabilities of their devices if the claim by the FBI is true. The FBI subsequently dropped their case against Apple.
Melanie Newman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said: "It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties or through the court system when cooperation fails. We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors."
Unsurprisingly, Apple now wants the FBI to inform them how they were able to unlock the iPhone, however, with their stance towards the FBI, it doesn't inspire confidence that they would tell them. Here is the official reply to the situation:
From the beginning, we objected to the FBI's demand that Apple build a backdoor into the IPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government's dismissal, neither of these occured. This case should never have been brought.
Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.
...this new method of accessing the phone raises questions about the government's apparent use of security vulnerabilities in iOS and whether it will inform Apple about these vulnerabilites.